February Spotlight: Kevin Warning

Inside the World of an Abstract Artist: Meet Kevin Warning

by Bella Erakko

Rare is the abstract artist who appeals to a wide audience, yet Alliance Art Gallery’s Spotlight Member for February, Artist Kevin Warning, has done just that. Like moths drawn to a flame, Gallery visitors stand in front of his work, trying to understand his technique—and wondering why it feels so appealing.

He began in the traditional way, following his grandmother’s proclivity towards art. She focused her watercolors on flowers and traditional motifs. Naturally drawn to art, even as a child, Kevin began to create an artist’s world.

One of his favorite artists was George Seurat—the artist renown for his dots. A very famous “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” shows men and women required two years to paint … and 3.5 million dots. The artist wanted to explore how using color to create harmony and emotion, just as a symphony of different instruments creates music.

In a sense, he saw that something as abstract as dots juxtaposed next to each other could eventually become art. But he was not a pointillist, and he hadn’t yet found his technique. Until one day …

He talked with an artist who used resin to cover her acrylic canvases. It offered a brilliance he found appealing, so with little knowledge of how to create in this fashion, he began to explore.

He had a lot to learn. How diluted acrylic paint could be before it cracked? Why were binders needed? How much time would he have before the acrylics hardened (not much)? How could he keep his surface level so the paint or resin would not run in one direction? How could he make the resin become air-bubble free?

He finds himself continually fascinated by the primary colors. His work often has a dramatic intense feeling, as though you are sinking into layers of color. Usually his pieces emphasize one color, maybe reds and oranges, or blues from turquoise to cobalt, or warm tans, yellows, and browns. What is consistent, though, is that sense of being utterly drawn into the piece, finding it endlessly fascinating.

Technique forms a major part of his work, but technique alone does not make one an artist. It takes others who see it as art. Friends encouraged him to show his abstractions; he immediately received awards and acknowledgements not only in Hannibal but in other art galleries and shows.

After mixing the binder and acrylic into catsup-style squirt bottles, he creates puddles of the chosen colors onto the surface. He can tilt it to get the colors to flow in certain directions. He can work with metallic acrylics which can move slower and have more “shape” to them. He uses his hands, string, knives—allowing his inner eye to see what emerges.

Sometimes he “catches the wave” and the abstraction comes alive … and sometimes it doesn’t. The 30 minutes passes; the acrylic hardens; and he has nothing more than paint on wood or canvas.

This is where magic can begin. A second try. Now layers, a sense of translucence, a multi-dimensional image may emerge. One day, as he worked in his studio, his kids were playing in the adjacent room. They glanced at his work and said, “Dad, don’t you see the deer?”

It became a stunning semi-abstract creation he calls “Deer Cave”. Hauntingly beautiful, the majestic ghost-like image of a deer stands within the ever increasing blue darkness of a cave.

Kevin works in a wide range of sizes, from tiny three-inch wall hangings to dramatically large pieces. Looking to the future, he wants to explore layering, even leaving clear portions. What do layers of ocean look like? How can he draw out more translucence?

For Kevin Warning, he—with the support of his family—cannot imagine life without art. As deeply woven into his being as his beginning steps as a child watching his grandmother, he finds that it allows him to express his joy … in color.

An opening reception will be held Saturday, February 10, from 5:00 until 8:00 pm. A piece of Kevin Warning’s work will be given away in a free drawing held at 6:00. This reception coincides with Hannibal’s Second Saturday Gallery Night.

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